Press Release

For Immediate Release:
The University of Victoria debuts Volatile Attractions: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash,
and Managing a Music Legend

The 2019 Juno Awards pay tribute to the late Saul Holiff (CBC)

On Wednesday, June 20, 2018, the University of Victoria Libraries held a special event and exhibit to launch the Saul Holiff Archives, featuring the material it recently acquired from the estate of the longtime manager of Johnny Cash. The exhibit is entitled Volatile Attractions: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and Managing a Music Legend.
The collection includes thousands of exclusive items and rare insight into the life and career of the American country singer such as when the KKK threatened to kill him, first-hand accounts of his 1966 overdose in Toronto, and the true origin of Folsom Prison Blues. The archives of Saul Holiff are available to researchers and the public alike at the University of Victoria’s Mearns Centre for Learning – McPherson Library.
The launch, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, also revealed never-before-seen photos of Cash in concert at the prison and other rare and unpublished photos.
Cash fans remember Saul Holiff for putting Johnny Cash together with June Carter. For those who don’t know Holiff, Cash’s former manager is finally getting his due. Though virtually written out of the hit movie Walk The Line, the Canadian behind The Man In Black is now the subject of a feature-length documentary, a book, and most recently, a televised tribute at the 2019 Juno Awards.
Johnny Cash proposed to June Carter on stage in Holiff’s hometown of London, Ontario, on February 22, 1968. But few people know it was a Canadian who put Johnny and June together. The story begins in Newfoundland, Canada with the first show being at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas, on December 7, 1961.

AUDIO: Johnny Cash on Saul Holiff hiring June Carter [WHN Radio]

“In late ’61 we played the Big D in Dallas, Texas and my manager, Saul Holiff, said, ‘We need a girl singer on the show tonight, they want more than just you and your band.’ And I said, ‘Well, get one.’ He said, ‘What do you think about June Carter?”’And I said, ‘I’ve always been a fan of hers.’ And I had, you know. I loved her work. I said, ‘Get her if you can.’ So we booked June Carter on the Big D in Dallas and then that night my manager asked if she would work the next tour with us. So she did.”
Saul Holiff was a concert promoter when he first booked Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two in 1958. He was among the first to bring Rock ’n Roll to Canada (Bill Haley & His Comets, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, etc.). After becoming Cash’s manager in 1961, he also guided the careers of Americans June Carter Cash, Carl Perkins, George Jones, the Statler Brothers; and, Canadians Tommy Hunter and Debbie Lori Kaye.
After Holiff’s death in 2005, his son Jonathan discovered boxes of Johnny Cash files in storage–including hundreds of letters and audio diaries and recorded phone calls with Johnny Cash. In 2013, Jonathan directed the award-winning documentary My Father and The Man in Black featuring his father’s archives and produced with another family member, Jeff Paikin. In 2017, the book The Man Who Carried Cash by Julie Chadwick was released (now also an audiobook).
Volatile Attractions: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and Managing a Music Legend focuses on Holiff’s management years and features audio, video, press, photographs, contracts, correspondence, and memorabilia–including the gold records for At Folsom Prison, Ring of Fire, and, A Boy Named Sue. The archives also include items related to his family, education, and thoughts on religion (atheist), politics (liberal), and death (assisted).

Holiff famously quit Cash at the height of the singer’s career and retired to Victoria, British Columbia with his wife Barbara, and sons Jonathan and Joshua. In 1983, enrolled as a mature student, he graduated with an Honours B.A. in History from the University of Victoria. In 2005, at the age of 79 and in ill-health, Holiff committed “rational suicide” (M.A.I.D.).

Since the launch of the Saul Holiff Archives, audio, video, and photographs from the collection have been licensed by film, television, and podcast projects: My Darling Vivian (Matt Riddlehoover); Disgraceland: Johnny Cash: Pills, More Pills and Playing With Fire (Podcast); 2019 Juno Awards (CBC); The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash (Thom Zinny); ReMastered: Tricky Dick And The Man In Black (Netflix); and, Johnny Cash: American Rebel (CMT).
Interview with Jonathan Holiff
CTV News at 6
Phone call sample:

Johnny Cash phone call (July 1972)

My Father And The Man In Black trailer:


The Man Who Carried Cash by Julie Chadwick:
Volatile Attractions: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and Managing a Music Legend
Launching Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Mearns Centre for Learning – McPherson Library
3800 Finnerty Road, Victoria, British Columbia